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Harris: Rupert must prepare now for LNG boom

Roger Harris of Harris Palmer Consulting told the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce to prepare for a booming economy before it is too late. - Jackie Lieuwen
Roger Harris of Harris Palmer Consulting told the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce to prepare for a booming economy before it is too late.
— image credit: Jackie Lieuwen

Roger Harris says it’s time for Prince Rupert to brace for major changes as LNG investment proposals exceed $50 billion for the area.

Harris, representing Harris Palmer Consulting, has advised government, industry and First Nations on LNG, pipelines and other topics. He told those at a Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that the proposed cluster of plants will draw businesses with component parts into the region as well.

“If you have four plants built in Prince Rupert and Kitimat, you’ll become the second largest clustering of LNG plants in the world,” he said, adding it will bring a totally new level of investment in Rupert.

“The domino effect here becomes very significant.”

Harris said the most important thing is to know these projects are very realistic and are on track to happen.

“It’s time to start to think about what happens when you get these plants here,” he said.

Harris noted Prince Rupert can learn from the challenges facing Terrace and Kitimat. One of the big issues facing Kitimat right now is the huge influx of people straining the infrastructure. Harris said this strain will come to Rupert during the construction phase as the proposed combined camp sizes for this area are in the magnitude of 6,000 to 7,000 people.

“You’re talking the population of Rupert coming overnight. It’s a massive change,” Harris said.

“What do you do in a town like Kitimat when you’ve got 3,000 people in a camp, which is one third of the population, and they all of a sudden want to go downtown to the Dairy Queen?”

Another consideration coming to Rupert is escalating housing and rental costs, which is hitting Terrace now. One member of the audience from Terrace said in six months they went from regular rent and mortgages to basement suits costing $2,500.

“That’s a huge problem people are trying to figure out,” he said.

Citing concerns about homelessness in the community, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice asked Harris for advice about preparing for housing challenges.

Harris said the key is to provide other options, because housing issues may impact policing, strain infrastructure with overuse and cut affordable rent. He said the solution may sit with higher levels of government.

“I’m a big fan of revenue sharing,” he said.

“The province has to be there to help with resources ... their plan here is to make a significant amount of revenue off of this. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be reinvesting that now to prepare us.”

With the changes coming to the business world, Harris said a gap analysis is “fundamentally important” to identify the type of things industry will require and what local businesses need to do to take advantage of what’s coming.

“It’s a great time to live in Rupert, and a great time to live in the Northwest,” Harris said.

“But now is also the time to prepare yourself.”

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